This is the story of a dog called Charlie, who was born in May 2008 and died in June 2018. He was the companion of Tracy, who got him initially as her two girls really, really wanted a puppy. They promised to walk him, feed him and do all the things that were required. As is often the story, although the girls loved Charlie dearly, his daily care fell to mom.
Charlie (the puppy) loved to walk, but once he had had enough, he would just lay down and would not budge. He was very clear in his message—Small, tired, help! There were many days when the walker not only got great leg exercise, but a good biceps workout as well.
From sweet, rumbustious puppy to naughty, mischievous teenager …
Tracy shared that Charlie (the teenager) was the “naughty boy” in the family and that the girls would often wail in despair, “Moooom! Come get Charlieeee!” (the tiresome younger brother).
Charlie was, as Tracy said, the quintessential Labrador. All Labradors want to do is to please you, be with you and make you happy.
The daily (one-sided) dialogue with Charlie went something like this:
What are we gonna do? Stay home? Yay! That’s my favourite thing! Can I sit beside you? on you? behind you? Where? We’re going out? Yay! I love going out! Are we walking? Can I roll in smelly stuff? Can I sit on you? No? How about just rest my head on you? Cuddle? OMG! I love cuddling! I am so good at it!
No matter what Tracy wanted to do, Charlie was happy as long as he was with her. Charlie demonstrated, early on, that he was in Tracy’s life to be a teacher of selflessness and unconditional love. Every day, Charlie embodied these. Charlie wanted to be friends with everyone—people, dogs, cats. He approached everyone with a wagging tail and an eager heart. If he met a dog that was not friendly, he was never offended or aggressive. He’d simply back off and carry on his way. As a 95-pound dog, he was bigger than most but never used his size to intimidate.
While living in downtown Vancouver, for a brief period of time, Tracy would walk Charlie through the streets. He would walk up to people and say, Hello, how great to meet you! On one occasion, there was a homeless man sitting on the street, with the usual rush of people going past without acknowledging or seeing him. But Charlie walked right up to him, gave him a big kiss on the cheek and looked him right in the eye, tail wagging. Tracy recalls that she saw a physical shift in the man who sat up a little taller, wrapped his arm around Charlie and said “Hey, buddy!” like they were long lost friends. She realized that on this busy street, in the middle of this city, nobody saw this man. He was “invisible” but, yet, Charlie had seen him and acknowledged him. So simple.
Charlie loved to swim and would keep going until he was completely exhausted. One day in the spring, while walking along the Miles Canyon trail, he paddled out in the water to get the stick Tracy had thrown, but he got the wrong one, which was, in fact, a branch of a tree embedded in the river. Determined to bring that stick back, he tried desperately to swim to shore but was not making any headway.
Despite Tracy’s calls for him to let it go, he would not return empty-mouthed, even if it killed him. Tracy had to wade, waist deep, into the icy water, force his jaw open and pull him back to shore.
Charlie’s departure was sudden …
He was diagnosed with nasal cancer, and it was only a week later that, with a nose bleed that would not abate, despite the injections, the ice packs and the vet’s help, Tracy made a heartbreaking decision. Holding him on her lap, she sang her favourite song to him and rubbed the soft velveteen spot between his eyes while Charlie left her side forever.
Tracy now understood the grief that people experience when losing an animal companion. Over the course of 10 years, Charlie taught her and everyone else who crossed his path about true unconditional love.
Charlie had moved through this world like a Buddha: no ego, no aggression, no judgement. Just pure, unadulterated love and joy.
He will be forever missed.